Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella To Women: Don’t Ask For A Raise, Trust Karma

Kevin Bostic - Author
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Oct. 28 2016, Updated 5:36 a.m. ET

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stepped in it big time on Thursday when he said that women in the technology field shouldn’t ask for raises. Instead, Nadella said, they should trust that their “good karma” will pay them back if they have “faith in the system.”

At the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference — yes, Nadella said this at a conference celebrating women — Nadella was asked what advice he would give to “women who are interested in advancing their careers, but not comfortable… with asking for a raise.”

His response: “It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.”

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Nadella expounded, adding that “women who don’t ask for raises” have a “superpower.”

“Because somebody’s going to know that’s the kind of person that I want to trust,” Nadella added, “that’s the kind of person that I want to really give more responsibility to; and in the long term, efficiently things catch up.”

Nadella went on to note that his count-on-karma advice “might not be the only approach,” but the damage was already done.

The blowback from Nadella’s remarks on women was near immediate. Maria Klawe, the moderator for the panel Nadella sat on disagreed directly with Nadella, according toMashable. Klawe went on to recount how she was paid $50,000 less per year than she should have been when she was hired as Dean of Engineering at Princeton.

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“Do your homework,” Klawe advised the women in attendance. “Don’t be stupid like I was.”

The backlash didn’t stop with the conference, though; Nadella soon got a ton of comments on Twitter criticizing him for his controversial statements. It wasn’t too long before the Microsoft CEO had to tweet out the requisite walk-back, saying that he didn’t mean to say what he said in the way that he said it.

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An hour later, Nadella sent out an email to all Microsoft employees, further retracting his remarks and expressing his commitment to erasing the pay gap for women.

“Toward the end of the interview,” Nadella wrote, “Maria asked me what advice I would offer women who are not comfortable asking for pay raises. I answered that question completely wrong. Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap.”

As if to remove all doubt, the Microsoft CEO added, “when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, Maria’s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”

As in most fields, women in computing and technology earn around 70 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts make. Women are also drastically underrepresented in technology fields and they account for just 28 percent of employees at Microsoft, the company that Nadella heads up, according to Microsoft’s own numbers.

To say Nadella’s gender faux pas comes at a bad time for Microsoft is something of an understatement; virtually all of the past two years has been a bad time for Microsoft. The company is still among the most profitable in the world, but it no longer drives the computing industry in the way that it did in decades previous.

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Microsoft has found itself struggling to remain relevant in a tech sector that is dominated by mobile computing, an area that the software giant couldn’t capitalize on, and was eventually surpassed in when devices running software from Apple and Google exploded the segment. The previous CEO, Steve Ballmer, tried and largely failed to get a foothold for Microsoft in the sector and it is widely believed that Ballmer was forced out and Nadella was brought in due to Ballmer’s inability to properly position the company in the mobile segment.

Faced with multiple successive quarters of lackluster PC sales, Nadella would no doubt like to focus on righting Microsoft’s ship and not deal with distractions like this controversy over women in the tech workplace. The Microsoft chief may find, though, that he has to wait out his own karma for his recent statements before he can get back to pushing Windows 10 and the Surface Pro 3.

[Lead image via TechSpot]

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